Cicero: On Fate


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Cicero and Boethius did more than anyone else to transmit the insights of Greek philosophy to the Latin culture of Western Europe which has played so influential a part in our civilisation to this day. Cicero’s treatise On Fate (De Fato), though surviving only in a fragmentary and mutilated state, records contributions to the discussion of a central philosophical issue, that of free will and determinism, which are comparable in importance to those of twentieth-century philosophers and indeed sometimes anticipate them. Study of the treatise has been hindered by the lack of a combined Latin text and English translation based on a clear understanding of the arguments; R. W. Sharples’ text is intended to meet this need. The last book of Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy (Philosophiae Consolationis) is linked with Cicero’s treatise by its theme, the relation of divine foreknowledge to human freedom. Latin text with facing-page English translation, introduction and commentary.

R.W. Sharples was Professor of Classics at University College London. He is the author of several books including Stoics, Epicureans and Sceptics (Routledge, 1996).

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†R.W. Sharples was Professor of Classics at University College London. He published widely on ancient philosophy, especially the Aristotelian tradition (Theophrastus, Alexander of Aphrodisias). His books include 'Stoics, Epicureans and Sceptics' (Routledge, 1996), 'Nemesius: On Fate' (Liverpool University Press, 2008), and 'Cicero: On Fate with Boethius: The Consolation of Philosophy IV.5–7 and V' and 'Plato: Meno' in the Aris & Phillips Classical Texts series.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Title Page4
Copyright Page5
Note on Abbreviations10
1. Cicero and the Latin reception of Greek philosophy12
2. The place of On fate among Cicero's philosophical works14
3. The freewill problem before Cicero17
3.1 Causation17
3.2 Future truth and possibility22
4. Cicero's treatise On Fate: plan and sources27
4.1 The plan of the work27
4.2 Cicero's sources31
5. An evaluation of Cicero's treatise34
6. The influence of Cicero's treatise35
7. Divine foreknowledge from Cicero to Boethius36
8. Fate and providence40
9. The problem of evil42
10. Boethius' life and works45
11. The Consolation of Philosophy48
12. The sources and arguments of IV.5-7) and V52
13. The Consolation and Christianity57
14. The influence of the Consolation of Philosophy59
15. On the texts60
Text and translation:63
Cicero, On fate63
Appendix: Parallel texts103
Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy IV.5-7 and V113
Cicero, On fate170
Appendix: Parallel texts207
Excursus: Terminology for Causes209
Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy IV.5-7 and V213
Select Bibliography244